Arizona football: Foles flips the script

2011-10-26T00:02:00Z 2014-09-15T10:21:06Z Arizona football: Foles flips the scriptRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 26, 2011 12:02 am  • 

Nick Foles expects to parlay his Arizona Wildcats' career into an NFL future. After that, maybe the quarterback will follow his father, Larry, into the family business, or put his communications degree to good use.

One career, coaching, will almost certainly be a part of Foles' future. After all, he's doing it now.

The UA's senior captain scripted 13 of the Wildcats' first 18 plays in Thursday's 48-12 win over UCLA at Arizona Stadium. He did so well, leading the UA to two touchdowns and 156 yards of offense, that coaches have asked him to do it again this week against Washington.

Foles, who played arguably the best half of his college career against UCLA, says he enjoys the added responsibility. Nobody on the team knows the offense better than Foles, who has completed 227 of 320 passes for 2,546 and 18 touchdowns this season.

"I know what the team likes, I know what I like and, studying the defense, I know what's good," he said. "Any quarterback can tell you: You want to run plays that you enjoy running."

Foles' calls were simple, balanced and relatively conservative; that was by design, he said.

The Wildcats ran 10 passing plays and eight runs in their first two drives. Most of the UA's rushing and play-action plays came out of their "bone" full-house formation. The three-running-back formation forced UCLA to choose between overloading the box to stop the run, freeing up man-to-man coverage on the outside; or dropping players into coverage and giving the Wildcats extra blockers.

"Defensively, they have to make a choice," said UA quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo.

The results were amazing. With Foles running the show, Arizona drove for back-to-back touchdowns. The hot start marked the Wildcats' first lead since their Week 1 win over Northern Arizona.

"The biggest thing was, I wanted to start fast," he said. "If you go down and score on the first drive, it changes the momentum early and helps your defense."

Foles isn't the only veteran quarterback in the Pac-12 Conference to call his own plays. Stanford's Andrew Luck made headlines last month when he called every play in a blowout win over the Bruins. Since then, coach David Shaw has empowered Luck to check down on plays at the line of scrimmage and, from time to time, script his own drives.

Luck rarely makes mistakes.

"He's on a clip, throughout the season, to finish at 98, 99 percent," Shaw said. "He's only missed a couple."

Foles, like Luck, has had the responsibility to make run-pass calls at the line of scrimmage for years. Coaches have trusted him to check down based on what the defense shows.

But Foles didn't have a role in scripting plays until Tim Kish was named the UA's interim coach on Oct. 10. Within a few days, the Cats' coach had given the offensive staff full control over the game plan - and Foles was assigned homework.

Foles picked his favorite 13 plays in the days leading up to Arizona's game with UCLA; successful ones were run over and over, while certain situations - like third-and-short and "and-goal" scenarios - prompted offensive coordinator Seth Littrell and Scelfo to suggest certain plays.

Foles met with both his coaches again last Wednesday to plan the Wildcats' first few drives. The Cats' quarterback was, understandably, a natural.

"Nick's a smart guy," Scelfo said. "When you have players like him who don't come around very often, you have to take advantage of them. You have to appreciate them when you've got them."

By the numbers

13

Plays "scripted" by quarterback Nick Foles in the first two drives of Thursday's 48-12 win over UCLA

156

Yards gained by Cats on their first two drives

14

Points scored during Foles' scripted stage

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Pac-12 South football standings

Team W L T PCT
Arizona 5 1 0 0.833
Utah 5 1 0 0.833
USC 5 2 0 0.714
ASU 5 1 0 0.833
UCLA 5 2 0 0.714
Colorado 3 4 0 0.429

Pac-12 North football standings

Team W L T PCT
Oregon 6 1 0 0.857
Oregon State 4 2 0 0.667
Stanford 4 3 0 0.571
Washington 5 2 0 0.714
Cal 4 3 0 0.571
Washington State 2 5 0 0.286
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